Message for the Week from Rabbi Stein

Ulterior Motives

Rabbi Jay M. Stein

Wednesday, January 25, 2017 at 12:00:00 am

I have heard the moaning of the Israelites... (Exodus 6:5)

And you shall know that I am the Lord your God... (Exodus 6:7)

I will bring you to the land I promised to Abraham...(Exodus 6:8)

For doing it without proper intent will lead to doing with proper intent (Pesachim 50b)

I'm not so certain that life would be better if we understood why people behave the way they do. Yet we spend a tremendous amount of energy trying to figure it out.  We speak of childhood scarring.  We refer to baggage accumulated through life.  We ascribe sinister motives to benign actions. We wonder about ulterior motives.

In this week's reading, God gives us three reasons for taking the Hebrews out of Egypt.

  • God heard the suffering and could not turn a deaf ear.
  • God was showing how powerful God is.
  • God was keeping God's promise. 

No matter the reason, the Hebrews are saved.  It really doesn't matter why. It only matters that our journey from slavery to freedom had begun.  

The same is true on our lives.  It doesn't matter why we choose to do good, to lend a helping hand.  It only matters that we do.  The lessons are simple: don't wait for the right reason to do good and don't question why someone else has already made that decision.

  

Who Am I?

Rabbi Jay M. Stein

Wednesday, January 18, 2017 at 12:00:00 am

Jean Valjean begins the eternal, potentially the most powerful, lyrics of the song "Who Am I?" in Les Miserable with:

He thinks that man is me
He knew him at a glance!
That stranger he has found
This man could be my chance!
Why should I save his hide?
Why should I right this wrong
When I have come so far
And struggled for so long?
If I speak, I am condemned.
If I stay silent, I am damned!

Moses begins his journey to the role of leader of the Jewish people with: But Moses said to God,“Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and free the Israelites from Egypt?”

Before we are capable of greatness we must figure out who we are. It appears as though Moses was asking what makes him worthy of such great things?  He is a person who was not sure if he was Hebrew or Egyptian; was once discarded or once chosen; not wanted or selected.  So begins the journey not to leadership but to identity. Moses, like us, must begin with the question, Who am I?Then he can ask, Now what can I do?

  

Grandparenting

Rabbi Jay M. Stein

Sunday, January 15, 2017 at 12:00:00 am

Joseph took the two of them, Ephraim with his right hand and Mennaseh with his left hand...and he drew them close to him.(Genesis 48:13)

When I was a young child I often sat in shul with my Bubbie. I remember her hands and the way she would clean her glasses with just her fingers. I remember the bracelets she wore and the way her engagement ring seemed a little large for her finger because it easily could be spun around. I remember the wrinkles, though she never liked me making mention of them.  I remember sitting next to her while she prayed and I listened.  My grandmother was a deeply religious woman and I was profoundly influenced by her.

Grandparents have the opportunity to influence their grandchildren in ways parents are not able. However, it is the parents' task to ensure they have time together.  "Joseph drew them close to him." Although Jacob had missed most of their life, Joseph wanted his sons to be close to his father. Although Joseph may have had a complicated relationship with his father, he wanted his children to feel his blessing.   

May we all fondly remember our grandparents.